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The Fall 2022 Preview Guide
More Than a Married Couple, But Not Lovers

How would you rate episode 1 of
More Than a Married Couple, But Not Lovers ?
Community score: 3.6

What is this?

Third-year high school student Jirō Yakuin gets saddled with his gyaru classmate Akari Watanabe for the class's "marriage training" project about practicing to be a married couple. Jirō is the complete opposite of Akari, but the two know that if they do well they will be able to switch partners to end up with their respective crushes, and so they force themselves to act like the perfect married couple.

More Than a Married Couple, But Not Lovers is based on Yūki Kanamaru's manga and streams on Crunchyroll on Sundays.

How was the first episode?

Caitlin Moore
Rating: More than zero, less than two

Okay so. You're a manga creator, trying to come up with a new idea that'll get you a hit series. You don't have any original or creative ideas, so first you take a romcom staple, where two characters decide to work together to help one another to catch the attention of their respective crushes. Of course, eventually they'll fall in love with each other. But you can't just put that out and call it a day, because people will rightfully call it a ripoff. So, you set out to find a gimmick.

You keep stapling cliches to it – a childhood friend, a gal, a protagonist prone to negativity, a dirtbag horny best friend – but it just keeps coming out as bland and unremarkable as oatmeal. Finally, you come up with an idea that is so off-the-wall that nobody else would even dare try it! The teenagers are forced to live together as a school assignment and randomly assigned to one another! They're under constant surveillance by the school and are graded on their biometric signals! It's just stupid enough to work.

That is, if you ask me, it's way too stupid to work, but I'm not the one publishing manga or bankrolling anime, am I? Enough people out there like this brainless concept that it not only was published but got an anime, and here we are. A lot of romcoms have a premise that doesn't hold up to scrutiny, but this one really takes the cake. Like, what do these people think constitutes a good marriage? Are they going to expect the girls to cook and clean? It seems like they're being judged purely on how horny these teens get for each other, except they're not allowed to bang. And if they're compatible enough to do well, they get to switch partners? Man what? I'm an old married lady myself, and the foundations of a strong domestic partnership have nothing to do with what has earned Akari and our protagonist-kun (whose name I can't even remember) points. It's more based on communication, emotional support, sharing household duties… you know, boring stuff.

Plus, the heteronormativity levels are completely off the charts. The setup posits that the classic nuclear family structure of one man and one woman is the only worthwhile one, instead of allowing people to find what works for them. Queer teens, ace teens, poly teens? Screw you! The government demands you learn how to be a good little wifey or husband, and they decide what that entails, instead of finding what's right for you. It's downright regressive.

It's like if you took all the robots out of DARLING in the FRANXX and turned it into a straight (heh) romantic comedy. I don't need that in my life again.

James Beckett

When I finished the first episode of More Than a Married Couple, But Not Lovers, I had questions. A lot of questions.

First of all, what band of insane perverts would get together to create a system where a bunch of teenagers are forced to cohabitate under the explicit roleplaying scenario of being a married couple that are observed via video cameras and biometric recordings at all times? What kind of horrifying alternate-universe Japan would allow a school to get away with it? Are we, the viewers, just supposed to ignore the plethora of dangers to these kids' psychological and emotional health that is bound to come up from having to invest in a “fake” relationship for an entire year and live with another person of the opposite sex that they are presumed to be romantically and sexually compatible with, yet they are expressly forbidden from actually becoming intimate with each other? Furthermore, even if we were to go along with the bonkers idea that these educators have somehow found a way to meaningfully quantify and gamify the abstract and extremely messy road to building up a functional and healthy domestic partnership, why in God's name is “immediately divorcing your fake spouse to partner-swap with the person you really want to screw” the incentive for doing well at all this!?

Phew. The point is that More Than a Married Couple has taken the old “Pretend to Be Couple for Convoluted Reasons but Then Accidentally Fall in Love” shtick and combining it with the classic sitcom cliché of two kids being put into an adulthood simulation for a school project, except everything has been pushed to such a ludicrously farfetched extreme that it demands a level of suspending disbelief from its audience that it just does not earn. It would be one thing if Akari and Jirou weren't written to be equally shrill and dislikable in their own unique ways, but the sad fact is that even if I was willing to go along with this cockamamie gimmick, I couldn't possibly be bothered to care when the main couple of the title share absolutely zero chemistry with each other. The show doesn't seem to have much more confidence in them, either, since it rushes through way too many stock “begrudging romance” beats in just this first episode in a desperate bid to convince us that these two could definitely end up being a star item, together.

It isn't successful. In fact, just about the only things that More Than a Married Couple is successful at are being very bright and colorful, along with being very horny. I suppose that, if an audience for this anime exists, it would specifically be people that have been looking for a bunch of shameless fanservice and lame gags that all happen to be colored like a LiSA Frank poster. Everyone else will likely want to steer clear, and if you do insist on checking this one out, I recommend that you bring along a couple of tabs of Advil. Just in case.

Richard Eisenbeis

Look, there are two ways to look at the central premise of this show—i.e., high school kids being forced to live together and act like a couple. The charitable way of looking at it is that it is basically relationship training. These kids are being taught how to have a caring relationship (or at least, go through the motions of one) in a safe, monitored environment. And honestly, I've met more than a few people that could have really benefited from some kind of formal training in how to be a good partner. It's just that we usually leave teaching kids about how to act in relationships to their parents rather than the school system—which I'll admit doesn't always work out all that well.

The other way to look at this is... well, frankly as what it is: an incel fantasy. Here we have the much touted government-mandated girlfriends where you too will get paired up with a sexy, large-breasted girl who is forced to not only be around you but act like she is in love with you—because if she doesn't she'll be unable to graduate. You don't have to be a good person or work on yourself. You can be as lazy and unhygienic as you want and she still has to do all the lovey-dovey things like kiss you when you leave the apartment and... I'm sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Moreover, this isn't even an original idea; 2017's Love and Lies had the same general concept. However, while that series was all about those rejecting such a messed up system, this one is all about how awesome it would be to have someone be forced to date you. ...I think I'm going to need a trashcan (both to puke in and throw this episode into).

And to top it all off, neither the characters nor their problems are interesting in the least. They're walking clichés. The guy is a blank slate proxy for all nerdy young men and the girl is the latest example of the ever-popular “dresses ultra-sexy but is actually innocent and pure” trope that pops up time and again in anime—especially when portraying “gyaru” characters. It's just terrible. I understand that there is an audience for something like this out there but I am most certainly not it.

Rebecca Silverman

My mother told me to always say something nice first. I really like the art for the ending theme of this episode. It's very pretty. But, uh, the rest of the show? I'm having some issues. First and foremost is the mind-boggling idea that any high school anywhere in the world would have a mandatory program where seniors have to live together as if they're a married couple in order to graduate. Even if we leave out the fact that they all appear to be boy/girl pairs, that's astoundingly regressive, as it assumes that everyone is going to get married after high school (at some point). While I fully recognize that not every culture thinks of marriage in the same way, it still feels like some dystopian nonsense, partly because it doesn't even lean hard enough into its own gimmicky concept. Why not go all the way and make it about Japan's falling birthrates? Having thumbprint locks on the bedrooms (and a camera in the living room) just feels like the story wimping out.

Worse still, More Than a Married Couple doesn't even fully understand its own internal logic. If this is meant to be purely about learning to live with another person and equitable division of labor, then why do Akari and Jiro gain points when they kiss or get close physically? Is this all just some creepy setup by a school administrator who enjoys watching high schoolers romance each other? Points for taking turns cooking and cleaning would make sense with the story's setup, but clearly that's not what's going on.

And, in all honesty, what's going on here is me desperately trying to make sense of a story that exists solely to create (melo)drama among its cast. Jiro and Akari both have crushes on other people, who of course are paired with each other in this ludicrous farce of an assignment, largely to foment angst. But oh no, maybe Jiro and Akari are starting to like each other?! It's all just a thin veil for an excuse to draw the characters living together and engaging in shenanigans of the romantic variety, a bit of wish-fulfillment that isn't even bothering to live up to its own premise. These kinds of stories can work (I have fond memories of Good Morning Call for no good reason), but unless this can settle on its own mythology, I'll just keep moving on.

Nicholas Dupree

I firmly believe you can make a compelling story about anything, if you do it right. But there are certainly premises that stretch the suspension of disbelief so taut that only the most expert of executions could make me sit through it. Such is the case with More Than a Married Couple, a show based on possibly the dumbest concept of anything I've seen in years.

It's just...so dumb. When I first read the synopsis, I imagined the marriage practicum to be like, a suped up version of the Flour Bag Baby project high school kids deal with. But that's way too sensible. Instead, the setup is that high school seniors are randomly selected into heterosexual fake-married couples and forced to cohabitate while pantomiming a predetermined model of heteronormative marital bliss, with their graduation on the line. And listen, I've watched (and loved) romcoms with stupid premises before, but this is straight up cult shit that makes the dueling mafia families of Nisekoi look positively sensible. Hell it's marginally less credible than the mandatory marriage of Love & Lies, just by virtue of this one high school seeming to be the only place that does this. It begs a million questions (what about kids who aren't into the opposite sex? Who decides what a “happy marriage” looks like? Why is this a requirement for graduating?) that the show won't bother to ask because it's all a poorly-considered setup to get our central odd couple living together.

So with a premise that dead-on-arrival, this premiere's script needed to be immaculate to work for me. It needed to be effortlessly funny, stunningly charming, and do it all with enough abundance that it could keep me from thinking about the fucked up implications of this whole thing. And it fails hard. Our main couple have all the chemistry of spoiled cheese that's been sitting in the back of the fridge for months. Jiro is an insufferable sadsack who spends most of this episode doing three things: getting angry with his not!wife, ogling his not!wife in her underwear, and agonizing over self-made fantasies of his not!girlfriend getting busy with her school-appointed prop husband. Leading gal Akari isn't much better, as her role in this episode is to show off her cleavage and argue with Jiro in interminable scenes that are supposed to be funny but never are. Together they make a thoroughly unlikable couple that sucks the oxygen out of every scene they're in, and it turns the whole affair into an excuse to see a pink-haired gyaru in different states of undress.

Though if that's your main reason for watching this show, you'll be well fed. The single positive aspect of this premiere is that it looks really, really nice. Occasionally the saturated colors can get a bit much, but generally the candy-coated aesthetic looks really nice, and it's utilized expertly to deliver eye-catching shots and evocative frames. The visuals aren't enough to save the premise, but they're good enough to add a whole extra star onto this score, just for making it far more tolerable than a lesser production could have. The fanservice is rather rote, but it's at least well-illustrated, and it's the one aspect of this style of romcom the show manages to deliver well.

So yeah, this is a non-starter. It's a gormless romcom with a mind-meltingly bad setup and a deeply unengaging main couple. The production may be enough to make it worth watching on mute, but that's the only way I can recommend it.

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